Tag Archives: nativity

How truth regarding Jesus’ birth affects us today

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — John 3:16

During this wondrous season, while Christians around the world proclaim the most significant event in human history, that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” its real significance is often missed.

Have you ever stopped to think about the deeper meaning of the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus? His birth was the birth of the most unique Person in history – the incarnation of God Himself, the mingling of God with humanity. As the greatest testimony of His love, the Father has His only Son become man to heal us from everything that separates us from Him – to save us from our sins. In this way, Jesus merits for us the dignity of becoming children of God, allowing us to cry out, Abba Father.

This great love story is retold every year and portrayed in the Christmas creche, which focuses our reflection, contemplation, and gratitude upon the wonder and beauty of our Savior’s birth. It is hard to imagine Christmas without this humble scene and its profound teaching of the heavenly Father’s love for His children.

The origin of the Christmas creche rests with St. Francis of Assisi. It is said that St. Francis lived daily with great joy the wonder and awe of the Incarnation of the Son of God and His blessed and humble birth. The meek saint would often shed tears of heartfelt gratitude, praising the divine Son who took upon Himself our human nature to reveal His Father and to reconcile all things and destroy the power of sin and death forever.

This event is the central moment in human history, which has changed forever our understanding of earthly realities. One reality is how we look upon the sanctity of human life. Jesus’ body was formed in the womb of Mary: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The eternal Son of God came into the world in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, thus blessing the womb of every woman and the precious life of every child. The ministry of Jesus didn’t begin at His birth but at His conception.

Despite this, life at every stage – from conception to natural death – is under siege. We cry and protest for the children who are impeded from being born, for the millions of children born and left to die from hunger and sickness, for the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and the disabled. Yet, amid our weary struggle with these injustices, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the wonder of the Incarnation, its significance, and its power to tranform:

“The action of God, in fact, is not limited to words, indeed we might say he is not content only to speak but is immersed in our history and takes on the fatigue and weight of human life.”

The unapproachable God became approachable and is fully expressed – a God of love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory. If we lose perspective on the essential truths that are bound up in the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord Jesus, we lose sight of the Gospel and its revealed truth about life, the human person, and our eternal destiny.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International www.hli.org and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

The Savior arrives as a baby

Christmas could rightly be called the holiday of the senses.

It is the season of lights and tinsel, choirs and carols, the aroma of evergreen and roasting chestnuts. Christmas comes to us with sumptuous meals, hearty laughter, and kisses beneath the mistletoe. Christmas scenes — by the old masters and by modern advertisers — decorate the walls of museums, billboards on the roadside, and cards in the mailbox. For nearly 2,000 years, the world has marked the birth of Jesus as its most festive jubilee. No other day of the year offers the world so many earthly pleasures.

But why? No pope or Church council ever declared that it should be so. Yet every year, Christmas comes onto the calendar like a sudden December wind, like the blinding sun reflected off new snow. It is a shock to the senses, to go from barren winter to the season of lights and feasting.

And so it should be, for the first Christmas — the day when Jesus Christ was born — was a shock to human history.

For millennia, humankind had lived and died, uncomprehending, in its sin, the miseries of this world inevitable and the joys few and fleeting. Then Christmas arrived, and even the calendar went mad. From that moment, all of history was cleft in two: before that day (B.C.), and after that day (A.D.). The world — with all its sights and sounds and aromas and embraces — was instantly transfigured. For the world’s redemption had begun the moment God took human flesh for His own, the moment God was born in a poor stable in Bethlehem.

The greatest Christian poem commemorates this moment when God definitively came to dwell on earth. St. John begins his Gospel by describing a God of awesome power, remote in space and transcending time: a Spirit, a Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him.

This is the God that even the pagan philosophers knew: the Prime Mover, the One, the Creator. Yet, precisely where the pagan philosophers stalled, John’s drama proceeded to a remarkable climax:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

This was shocking news. From the distant heavens, from remotest time, God Himself had come in flesh to “pitch His tent” among His people. Yes, God is eternally the Word, but a word is elusive, and not everyone may grasp it. Now He is also a baby, and a baby may be picked up and held and embraced.

Of all the amazing and confounding truths of the Christian religion, there is none so outrageous as this: that the Word was made flesh, in a particular little town, in a stable filled with animals, on a certain day of the year. The Word was made flesh and changed everything. This makes Christmas the most shocking feast in the calendar.

This is what Christmas teaches us: We have bodies so that we can use them to worship God, as Jesus of Nazareth did. We have bodies so that we can use them to serve others, as Jesus did. We have bodies so that we can bring comfort and consolation and healing, as Jesus did. We have bodies so we can celebrate together, as Jesus did. We have bodies for glory’s sake.

Christmas tells the story of how the flesh became holy, the body was sanctified, and simple earthly joys became hymns of praise to God. We love to hear the story over and over, and we always will love it so long as a scrap of humanity remains in us. L

MIKE AQUILINA is the author of many books, including Faith of Our Fathers (Emmaus Road), from which this essay is adapted. He has hosted 11 series on EWTN Television, and appears weekly on Sirius Radio’s “Sonrise Morning Show.”

Christmas and the inversion of the family

The most accurate word to describe Christmas is “Nativity.” More than anything else, Christmas is about a birth, the birth of Christ. While this simple fact has occupied a comfortable place in the Christmas tradition, its revolutionary implications might remain hidden to many people. Nonetheless, Christmas has had a decisive revolutionary impact on the ordering of the members of the family.

Pater familias, “father of the family” or “owner of the family estate,” according to Roman law, gave the father autocratic authority over his family. In the family hierarchy, the father came first, the mother a distant second, and the child a far distant third. In contrast to pater familias, the Nativity was revolutionary in that it placed the child first, the mother a close second, and the father a comfortable third. The various images of the Madonna give the Christ- child a centrality, while Joseph is often absent. Mary nourishes, Joseph protects, but the Christ- child, who elicits these virtues, is the centerpiece. The Holy Family inverts the order of pater familias and gives the child a status of pre-eminence.

The Nativity is also a celebration of life, for a new life comes into the world amid widespread rejoicing. It truly brings joy to the world. The shepherds kneel in adoration of the Christ-child, virtually ignoring, though not disrespecting, the parents. Even the angels sing their praises to the newborn. It is not Mother’s Day nor Father’s Day that is celebrated, but the Nativity.

The Nativity affirmed the primary importance of the child. This notion had a deep impact on human history. King Lear, in a moment of uncontrollable rage, pronounces the greatest curse he can imagine on his daughter, Goneril: “Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, hear! Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful. Into her womb convey sterility. Dry up in her the organs of increase, and from her derogate body never spring a babe to honor her” (Act 1, Scene 4). Here, though stated in the negative, is a powerful testimonial to the importance of new life and how it brings joy and fulfillment to a woman. Love always has a forward motion. It does not hold back. It overcomes obstacles and reaches out to new life. Honoring and embracing the Christ-child is an acceptance of the mystery of love and the rewards it confers.

When we look at the contemporary world, we are witnessing a loss of that proper hierarchy of the family in which the child has pre-eminence. The abortion mentality accords the mother absolute dominion over her child, while the father holds, tenuously, to a distant second place. In many instances the child is downgraded into a subhuman. One example from a university textbook entitled Sociology more than illustrates the point. In referring to the neonate, the author writes: “The physical care, emotional response, and training provided by the family transform this noisy, wet, demanding bundle of matter into a functioning member of society.” King Lear retained enough mental clarity not to wish that his daughter would never deliver a “bundle of matter.”

The title of this brief essay employs the word “inversion.” This word is appropriate in relation to pater familias which had viewed the family upside down. A more precise term, however, is “conversion,” for the order of the Holy Family is a conversion from error to truth, from the unholy to the holy, and remains with us forever as the proper hierarchic model of all human families, perhaps more needed in our own time than ever before in human history.

DR. DONALD DEMARCO’S latest book is Apostles of the Culture of Life (TAN Books), and he has also released the recent title, Why I am Pro-Life and Not Politically Correct. He is a senior fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University (Waterloo, Ontario), adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College (Cromwell, CT), and regular columnist for St. Austin Review.